“For Egged, to join the defamation campaign against the haredi public is intolerable, as is their acquiescence to allow their drivers to seek out opportunities for publicity at the expense of travelers…[Egged is acting against haredim] because of their social identity as haredim with no legal footing and without invitation by any of the involved parties. It is superfluous to call [the haredi riot] destructive and damaging. This is neither the way of Torah nor that of its adherents. We must condemn violence in any form whatsoever. This, however, does not justify Egged’s actions, and the public expects to hear a clear apology on the company’s part…"
Bus Company Should “Apologize” For Smearing Haredim, Haredi Pol Says
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Late last month, when a haredi couple in Beit Shemesh told a woman that the public bus she had boarded was customarily gender segregated and asked that she move to rear to sit with the women, the bus driver called police.
Within minutes of last month’s incident, haredim rioted, smashing bus windows with hammers and hurling rocks and garbage at buses.
The woman who was victimized, a new immigrant to Israel unaware of the history of the issue and possibly intimidated by the violence, refused to press charges.
Coerced gender segregation in public spaces, including on public buses, is illegal in Israel. Nonetheless, haredim have repeatedly violated that law, coercing women to the backs of buses or to the other side of the street, sometimes with intimidation, other times with physical force. There have been so many incidents that it’s hard to keep count.
For women, simply riding a bus in cities that have large haredi populations like Beit Shemesh can be a harrowing experience. Recently Batya Cohen, the mother of a 19-year-old woman who had just completed her national service, wrote to the Jerusalem Post explaining what life was like for her daughter during her service.
“Without fail, every [bus] ride for the entire year meant enduring verbal harassment from haredi men and sometimes women for her refusal to sit at the back of the bus.
“The bus drivers varied in their response. Some demanded that the perpetrators stop or leave the bus, while others ignored the problem. On one occasion she filed a complaint with the police.
“Make no mistake: Harassment against women on public buses in Beit Shemesh is a daily occurrence, and a problem that we are suffering alone,” Cohen wrote.
Many Egged buses carry widely ignored signs warning riders that “each passenger is entitled to sit wherever he chooses (except in seats designated for persons with disabilities), and harassing passengers regarding this matter may be a criminal offense.”
Despite Egged’s wording, harassing passengers to cause them to gender segregate, even nicely asking a passenger to gender segregate, is a crime.
When the bus driver in last week’s incident called police, he did not do so in a vacuum.
But that did not stop a local haredi politician, Beit Shemesh Deputy Mayor Shmuel Greenberg of the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party, from from attacking the Egged Bus Company for allegedly being complicit in a “defamation campaign against the haredi public.”
Greenberg chairs the Municipal Transportation Committee – the same committee that has done nothing to stop haredi harassment of women on local public buses.
In an extended statement to a local newspaper, Greenberg asserted that haredim are arrested “simply because they are haredi.” Those allegedly illegitimate arrests are then “blown out of proportion by the media without even a minimum of objectivity,” he claimed.
“For Egged, to join the defamation campaign against the haredi public is intolerable, as is their acquiescence to allow their drivers to seek out opportunities for publicity at the expense of travelers…[Egged is acting against haredim] because of their social identity as haredim with no legal footing and without invitation by any of the involved parties. It is superfluous to call these actions [the riot] destructive and damaging. This is neither the way of Torah nor that of its adherents. We must condemn violence in any form whatsoever. This, however, does not justify Egged’s actions, and the public expects to hear a clear apology on the company’s part, along with a clear declaration that they have no intent of taking sides in the aggressive defamation campaign against the haredi public,” Greenberg fumed.
Greenberg’s remarks reportedly reflect the feelings of a number of haredim in Beit Shemesh.
“[The arrested couple’s] only crime was that they alerted a female passenger that the Beit-Shemesh-Bnei Brak line was a mehadrin [kosher] line as previously agreed with Egged authorities,” a pashkvil (wall poster) in Ramat Beit Shemesh reportedly read.
Gender-segregated ‘mehadrin’ buses are illegal – a fact many haredim refuse to acknowledge.
Earlier today, Greenberg told the Jerusalem Post that Egged’s drivers should not get involved with gender segregation issues – even though the law requires them to.
“Egged needs to instruct its drivers not to involve themselves in these incidents,” Greenberg reportedly said, noting that during the run-up to the city’s mayoral elections in October, “there is always a lot of tension in the air and they are making a mountain out of a molehill.”
A city spokesman told the Post that Greenberg was only “speaking for himself,” not for the city’s haredi mayor.
Egged, which has had a very poor record in following the law prohibiting gender segregation, tried to deflect blame from Egged.
“Egged is acting according to the instructions of the Transportation Ministry following the High Court ruling on the matter. In this case, the bus driver acted as necessary and intervened in favor of the woman who was asked to move to the back of the bus. Therefore, such complaints should be addressed to the Transportation Ministry,” Egged’s spokesman Ron Rattner reportedly said.
Related Posts (there are many more related posts not on this list):
Egged Public Bus Company CEO: As Far As I’m Concerned, We’re A “Haredi Company” And As Such We Will Continue To Refuse To Post Ads Depicting Women, Girls, Men, Boys, Animals, Extinct Animals, Cartoon Figures And Space Aliens.